E-Democracy builds online public space in the heart of real democracy and community. Our mission is to harness the power of online tools to support participation in public life, strengthen communities, and build democracy.
Chia (Chilli) Lor
Chilli was born in Chiangkham, a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand, and came to the United States with her family at the age of two. She lived in the McDonough Home Projects until 2000 when her family moved to the Greater East Side. She graduated from Central High School and is currently a student at St. Catherine University double majoring in Sociology and Critical Studies or Race and Ethnicity. Her passion for racial justice began with her refugee/immigrant experience and she is a trained community organizer through ISAIAH and TakeAction MN where she interned as a community organizer on the Central Corridor Light Rail Project. "I am a firm believer in grassroots organizing, because only through getting everyone at the table can there be authentic decisions." As a poet, hip-hop artist, and b-girl (a girl that break dances), Chilli is a huge advocate for using the arts as a tool for social justice. This spring she interned at the Plymouth Youth Center (PYC) Arts and Technology High School where she helped students produce the school's first school wide Hmong show. She is an active member of the youth group at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church and volunteers as a youth mentor artist with East Side Rising, a project of the Payne Phalen (D5) Planning Council. Chilli co-leads outreach in Payne Phalen, Greater East Side, North End, Dayton’s Bluff and the Asian community.
Donna is a deeply committed community volunteer. Her most recent efforts include collaborating with Saint Paul City Councilmembers, the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation (ASNDC) and neigborhood residents in a successful campaign for three additional Central Corridor LRT stops. She also served on the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood Advisory Board and volunteered with the Promise Neighborhood high school Solution Action Groups. She has an Associate of Arts in Computer Science. Donna co-leads outreach in central Saint Paul (Frogtown, Summit U, Union Park, and Hamline Midway) and is focusing her efforts in Summit University and Union Park. Donna first joined E-Democracy as a member of the 2012 Summer Outreach Team.
Gloria was born and raised in Mexico City. She moved to Minneapolis at the age of 12 where she graduated from Roosevelt High School. She went to Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall for two years, and is transferring to Minneapolis Community and Technical College to continue her studies. Gloria has been involved in many civic organizations mainly focused on the immigrant community. She helped to organize Dream Act rallies in Minnesota and has marched for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Gloria is passionate about social justice, and happy to be working with E-Democracy this summer to help grow a more connected, collaborative Saint Paul. "It's very hard for the community to get together. Using the forums is a way for people to build trust among their own neighbors. They help people get along and get things done." She co-leads outreach in Dayton’s Bluff, West Side, West 7th, and on the Greater East Side, and promotes forum engagement in the Latino community.
John is a Minnesota native who has lived in the Twin Cities since 1983. He has been working as a community organizer since 2007, first with the Metropolitan Interfaith Coalition on Affordable Housing and until recently for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. "Access to electronic media, the freedom of the internet, and media alternatives are critical to democracy, which is why E-Democracy.org is so important. Our work helps level the digital playing field." John has a BA from Macalester College and an MA from the University of Minnesota in Linguistics. He became passionate about social justice as a college student and has worked as an environmental canvasser, union organizer, and media activist. He was a founder of the Twin Cities Independent Media Center (TCIMC) and has been on the board of KFAI Fresh Air Radio (90.3/106.7 FM) since 2006. John co-leads outreach in Dayton’s Bluff, D1, Payne Phalen, and on the Greater East Side.
Siciid came to Minnesota with relatives at the age of five, leaving behind his mother and brothers and sisters and the turmoil in Somalia, where his father was killed in the civil war. As the oldest child of a family that eventually grew to include 13 siblings, Siciid began working as a breadwinner at a young age. It was a tough decision to go to college. He recently earned his Masters in Public Administration with a focus in public management from Mankato State University where in 2011 he earned a BA in Urban Planning and a BS in Professional Geography, and obtained certificates in Geographic Information Science and Nonprofit Leadership. He has worked with the Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office, the State Department of Commerce, Dayton's Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, and the Brian Coyle Community Center in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. From 2008 to 2011 he was a member of the Mankato State University Somali Student Association where served as Vice President and organized annual cultural shows, led community gathering to promote understanding about Somali culture, and mentored Somali students. "I was raised by the community with a lot of mentors. This is my time to give back. The forums are a place where we can talk about our issues and concerns within the community. I am working to get the message out that they are welcoming and can help people find the information they need to accomplish goals and results." Siciid co-leads outreach in District 1, Union Park, Dayton’s Bluff, and West 7th/Fort Road.
Tong was born and raised in St. Paul and has been living in Dayton's Bluff for over 10 years. He discovered his passion for community organizing while working for the Frogtown Neighborhood Association (FNA) and interning with the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) as a Housing Coordinator/Community Organizer. "Community is all about the people. Without the people there is no community, and if the community raises its voice about what they want to see, we can build a stronger community." Tong is a 2012 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College where he majored in Geography. He is working to promotes Asian forum engagement on the Dayton's Bluff, Frogtown, Greater East Side Neighbors, North End, and Payne Phalen forums. Tong first joined E-Democracy as a member of the 2012 Summer Outreach Team.
Angelina's family came to Saint Paul as refugees from Vietnam in the early 1990s. She has taught computer literacy to bridge the digital divide between generations and socio-economic classes and English to immigrant adult learners, and managed a Get Out the Vote campaign in the Frogtown neighborhood. She has a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a Bachelor of Science in economics with a minor in mathematics from the University of Minnesota, and she was recently awarded a Master's of Development Practice by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Humanitarian Services for the Children of Vietnam and a member of the Vietnamese Culture and Science Association – Minnesota Chapter. Angelina co-leads outreach in north Saint Paul and is focusing her outreach efforts in Payne Phalen (D5) and the Asian community.
Dan was raised in Duluth, Minnesota and graduated with a degree in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota. He's been involved with organizing campaigns in the Twin Cities for immigrants’ rights, equal access to higher education, and putting an end to police brutality. Having served as a human rights observer in Guatemala, Dan is deeply interested in Latin American politics and global affairs, and has a particular interest in using journalism to tell the stories of people who are marginalized by the mainstream media. He is sharing these strengths with the Summer Outreach Team by assisting with content engagement focused on storytelling with video and images. Dan is the lead outreach team member for the West Side and is working on Latino outreach in the Minneapolis Phillips and Powderhorn neighborhoods.
Gabe is a native Spanish speaker majoring in Linguistics at Carleton College in Northfield. "Online forums have the power to give people a voice and facilitate conversation between neighbors that leads to mutual understanding and cooperation. As a native Spanish speaker, I’m excited to work with the Latino community in St. Paul, especially on the West Side, where I grew up." Gabe co-leads outreach on the West Side and is the lead outreach team member for the West 7th/Fort Road Forum.
Kaohlee is a first-generation Hmong American. She was born in Oshkosh, WI and has lived in West Saint Paul for the past 16 years. She is a first-generation college student and looking forward to receiving her Bachelors of Arts in Child Psychology in August. As an active volunteer, Kaohlee has been involved with the Center for Hmong Arts and Talents (CHAT) and has served on the Board of Directors and as President of the Board for the Hmong Minnesota Student Association (HMSA). Kaohlee co-leads outreach in north Saint Paul, is concentrating her efforts on the Como and Downtown (D17/Capitol River) Neighbors Forums, and focuses on the Asian Community.
Naga’s family immigrated from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1998. "Growing up in an immigrant family, I have seen and experienced the struggles with assimilation, language barriers, and other things that immigrants face. The E-Democracy forums will help us improve the quality of life among the residents by opening a dialogue between neighbors." He is a 2010 graduate of South High School in Minneapolis and is currently an Athletic Training major at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. Naga co-leads outreach in East Saint Paul and is the lead outreach team member for the Dayton’s Bluff Neighbors Forum.
Sharmake came to America from Somalia via a refugee camp Kenya in 2010 where he worked in youth and community development to help create communities of peace and empowerment. Shortly after arriving in the Twin Cities, Sharmake began presenting to American audiences about refugees and the refugee experience and helping with new immigrant orientation with the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC) Refugee Service. He is working on his Associate in Arts at Saint Paul College and loves neighborhood libraries and coffee shops. Sharmake co-leads outreach in East Saint Paul and is focusing his efforts on the District 1 Neighbors Forum, which includes the Eastview, Conway, Highwood Hills and Battle Creek neighborhoods.
Vang came to the United States at the age of four from a Thailand refugee camp. He grew up in McDonough and now lives on the East Side. “I am very passionate to do something in my community. I love working with kids, especially those who are in my shoes. I want to be a role model for these kids and my community by helping kids learn how to make healthy choices.” Vang is the head coach for the youth baseball team and a math tutor at the McDonough Recreation Center. He is also a tutor for Saint Paul Break Through, “I love teaching, especially math and physics.” He is currently a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College where he is pursuing a degree in math and education and doing research about how to help low income, diverse students be successful. Ultimately, he would like to run for a seat on the school board where he hopes to make changes to help all students become successful. He also loves sports and plays baseball, basketball, football, and soccer during his free time. Vang co-leads outreach in north Saint Paul and is the lead outreach team member for the Greater East Side (D2).
Will came from Oregon to attend Macalester College in 2004. Although he lives in Cathedral Hill now, his heart resides in Mac-Groveland. At Macalester, he studied American politics and tried to affect change through political campaigns. But campaigns are not built for long-term civic engagement—Will's driving interest—and he hopes to make a greater dent through the interactive, empowering structure of E-Democracy's neighborhood forums. He's a full-blown coffee connoisseur, and Jimi Hendrix's dad once cut in front of him in line. Will co-leads outreach in north Saint Paul and is leading outreach efforts for the MacGroveland and the North End Neighbors Forums.
Corrine Bruning, Outreach Manager/Forum Engagement Lead
Corrine grew up exposed to many different cultures moving around the world with her military family. She has worked with youth and the elderly, tutoring, teaching work skills, and working in outdoor environments. She began her college career at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, the most diverse college in the State of Minnesota. She then transferred to Hamline University on a Presidential Scholarship to receive her Bachelor of Arts in urban studies concentrating in economics and environmental studies. Her passions lie in the ecological realm and she feels that equity and compassion must be woven deeply into society to reach true sustainability. She is a trained Community Organizer through the Midwest Academy–Chicago. Corrine focuses her work on leading the outreach team to reach its goal of raising up ALL community voices.
Pastor Devin Miller, African American Communities Forum Engagement Leader
Pastor Miller is a leader in the African American faith community. He is an Ordained Elder of the Church Of God In Christ and an Ordained Minister of the National Baptist Convention, and has worked with several communities and congregations to promote cultural understanding and improve services. "There's a new generation of media savvy leaders coming up that have not made the connection to the African American communities. There needs to be a bridge, and neighborhood is a place where common interests can bring us together." Pastor Miller is working to promotes African American forum engagement on the Frogtown, Greater East Side, Summit University Rondo forums.
Julia Opoti, Communications and Diverse Communities Engagement Leader - Newer Immigrants Focus
Julia Nekessa Opoti is the producer and host of Reflections of New Minnesotans on AM950 where she interviews immigrants from all over the world who have made Minnesota their home, temporary and permanent. As a writer, Julia has reported extensively on Somali, Liberian and other immigrant issues for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. She served as editor of Mshale, an immigrant African newspaper from 2006 to 2009. In 2010-11, Julia made significant contributions to E-Democracy's 2010-11 Inclusive Social Media pilot funded by the Ford Foundation, serving as the E-Democracy Community Outreach team leader for East African community engagement in the Minneapolis Cedar-Riverside, Phillips and Seward neighborhoods.
Marny Xiong, Asian Communities Engagement Leader
Marny is a first generation Hmong American born and raised in St. Paul. She was the lead outreach team member for the Frogtown Neighborhood forum in 2009 and 2010. While a student at the University of Minnesota–Duluth (UMD), Marny served on the board of the UMD Asian Pacific American Association and was a member of the Executive Board of Students Promoting Awareness through Teaching and the President of the UMD Badminton Club.
Ed handled facilitating the technical aspects for E-Democracy and did much of the backend work for getting members of our forum up and running. He moved around the United States while acquiring a couple of degrees (Ecology (BS) and Urban Planning (MA)) for career options to create naturally natural communities and is a luddite (environmentalist) at heart.
Tim is a social and business entrepreneur with a passion for online community and social media. Since 1997 he has organized and facilitated a variety of local, national, and international online public policy discussions, including facilitating an online debate for US Senate candidates in 2000, representing E-Democracy at national and international meetings, and serving as volunteer forum manager for the St. Paul Issues Forum for almost four years. "St. Paul is an exciting and diverse city and we have much to learn from each other. Connecting people online is a great way to make the city a better place to live and work." Tim recently worked to update E-Democracy's training resources and assists with support queries and special projects.
Carrie Davis, Development Coordinator
Carrie provides fund development coordination for E-Democracy, including grant writing, funder prospect research, project evaluation and donor relations. She has worked in fund development in a number of capacities for the past seven years. "I'm very excited about the idea of engaging neighborhoods using social media. E-Democracy is very innovative in the ways they're reaching out to people to invite them to the conversation and in how they're working to make that convening space a place where all voices are respectfully heard." Carrie has grant writing experience in the areas of health care, public health, youth development and other community-based organizations. She has also coordinated and facilitated special events, donor appeals and other activities to raise funds for nonprofits across the United States, including the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim, the Raven Drum Foundation in California, Southwestern District Health Unit in rural North Dakota, and Strategic Health Care, a consulting firm based in Washington, DC. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Community Psychology from Saint Cloud State University.
Cirien Saadeh, Communications & Outreach Assistant
Cirien is assisting with communications, social media, and outreach logistics and organizing, and is passionate about social justice, particularly racial equity as it relates to sharing our untold stories, "I think it's really, really important we help people learn how to tell their stories. Storytelling is something we share across all cultures, and it's through listening to each others' stories that we create a common language. That's why E-Democracy is so important. It provides a way for people to learn each others' stories without having to go to a community meeting set up to support someone else's agenda." Cirien graduated with a degree in Political Science in 2012 from St. Catherine University and is a trained community organizer through the Organizing Apprenticeship Project and citizen journalist (video and print) through The UpTake and other projects. In her spare time, Cirien is a martial artist in training, a new gardener, and a writer.
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